Washington — The White House is hosting a meeting to discuss right wing grievances against social media Thursday, according to news reports. Without a doubt for companies and society at large, it is always a challenge to both protect vigorous free speech and still respond to concerns about hate speech, extremism and religious intolerance. Notably, Twitter recently announced a new policy on content insulting to religious groups this week ahead of the White House meeting.

President Trump and others have criticized these private companies for their content policies, saying they unfairly discriminate on the basis of viewpoint. This issue is expected to be raised during the planned meeting Thursday.

This meeting is troubling because it’s always a concern when any government officials who have broad power to issue orders, investigations or regulations haul company officials in for a meeting to discuss “bias”.  A meeting like this seems designed to intimidate companies to bias content in favor of whoever is calling the meeting.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association is a longtime advocate for free speech online and against internet censorship in countries like China and Russia. It has provided Congress with resources to better understand why Section 230 has been called “the most important law in tech.” That law, enacted by Congress in 1996, has allowed internet companies to remove material ranging from criminal content to extremist speech without the risk of being sued by those who disagree with those decisions.

The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“Internet services depend on the legal certainty of the Telecom Act’s ‘Good Samaritan’ protections provided to companies to remove hate, extremism, and other objectionable content from the Internet. As they do that, no private company should be browbeaten by the government into giving a pass to objectionable content that violates company policies. 

“Social media sites may wish to allow many types of speech, but should not be required to stay neutral on hate or religious intolerance. If those airing grievances at this week’s meeting are unsatisfied with one company’s policy against objectionable content, there are plenty of competitors from which  to choose.”